Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II Honors Nazar and Artemis Nazarian for Life of Service, Philanthropy


By Florence Avakian

NEW YORK — “There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.”

These words by poet Kahlil Gibran might be considered the lifelong creed of Nazar and Artemis Nazarian.

On Friday, May 10, close to 400 people attended a gala banquet in the Plaza Hotel, to bear witness as the visiting Catholicos of All Armenians, Karekin II, bestowed on the deserving couple the “Knight of Holy Echmiadzin” Medal, the highest honor of the Armenian Church.

The event was sponsored by the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern) and the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU), and went forward under the auspices of Diocesan Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian and AGBU President Berge Setrakian.

Among the dignitaries in attendance were Diocesan Legate in Washington, DC, Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Vice Prime Minister of Armenia Armen Gevorgyan, United Nations Security Council Director Dr. Movses Abelian, Armenia’s Ambassador to the United States Tatoul Markarian, Armenia’s Ambassador to the United Nations Garen Nazarian and Co-Chair of the Armenian Caucus in the US House of Representatives Congressman Frank Pallone.

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The banquet was also attended by the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party (ADL) District Committee Co-Chairman Papken Megerian, member Dr. Vaghenag Tarpinian, Press Committee Chairman Hagop Vartivarian and Assistant Executive Secretary Baydzig Kalaijian.

Welcoming the enthusiastic throng at flower-bedecked tables in the chandeliered ballroom, Nila Festekjian, chair of the banquet committee, highlighted the significance of the evening by calling the Nazarians “a couple who we love, cherish, and respect.”

Master of Ceremonies Yervant Demirjian, AGBU’s treasurer, called it a “rare privilege” to have the catholicos present.

In his invocation, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian paid tribute to the catholicos, who “with a spirit of fatherly love and spiritual friendship has journeyed from Holy Echmiadzin to share our joy tonight.”

The Primate extolled Nazar and Artemis Nazarian for their “lifetime of leadership and generosity,” which has made the couple “shining examples of the Armenian Christian heritage at its best.”  He noted that “Nazar and Artemis are influential forces in the worldwide Armenian community, whose ethic of philanthropy has inspired our homeland to grow in the educational, cultural, national, and spiritual fields.”

In a heartfelt salutation to her parents, Seta Nazarian Albrecht shared the lessons she and her brother, Levon, had learned through the years.  Revealing a childhood memory of her mother’s kindness, Albrecht recalled Artemis Nazarian’s generosity to a stranger in a supermarket.  “Lesson learned?” Albrecht asked, “We are blessed with many gifts.  Share them.”

From her father, Nazar, who was always reading “everything in print, always looking for what was needed and how he could help,” she said she derived the lesson that “Our focus is not on ourselves, but on the needs of others.”

Concluding her message, Albrecht encouraged “the future Artemises and Nazars” to “give of yourselves; give financial support when you can; give your time and give your skills.  Stay connected to one another and your community.”

“If we do this,” she added, “if we all follow my parents’ example, our community, church and our culture will not only survive…we will thrive.”

A charming three-part video, produced by Ani Manoukian and Bryant Botero, presented lovely vignettes of the honorees’ life together, as recounted by friends and members of the Nazarian family, including the couple’s five grandchildren: William, Nicholas, Matthew, Daniela and Gregory.

It was revealed that Nazar and Artemis had met at a dance and married in 1954.  Together, they have shown an unwavering commitment to Armenian communities around the world. Among their countless acts of benevolence are the AGBU Levon G. Nazarian Elementary School in Beirut; the AGBU Levon and Satenig Nazarian Fund; the AGBU Noubar Nazarian Building, housing the Armenian Embassy in Beirut; the Artemis Nazarian Preschool in Canoga Park, California; the AGBU Yerevan State Medical University Levon and Claudia Nazarian Radiology Center; and the new AGBU Center under construction in Armenia.  Additional beneficiaries of their generosity are the AGBU Yerevan Summer Internship Program, AGBU Camp Nubar, and countless AGBU academic scholarships.

Nazar and Artemis undertook the funding of the construction of the chancellery in Echmiadzin, which houses the administrative offices and the secretariat of the catholicate.  In anticipation of the 1,700th anniversary of Armenia’s conversion to Christianity, they sponsored the construction of the Drtad Chapel of Yerevan’s St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral.

Viewers were also reminded that Nazar Nazarian had been one of the godfathers of St. Vartan Cathedral, and co-chair of the St. Thomas Church Building Committee, and has supported major projects of the Eastern Diocese, including St. Nersess Armenian Seminary.

Fr. Arnak Kasparian, a longtime friend of the family, spoke for many in his filmed interview when he said to the Nazarians: “You are God’s blessing for the Armenian people.”


Love and Honor

Dr. Levon Nazarian, a prominent radiologist and academic, presented a multi-media “roast” of his parents, sharing some humorous and heartwarming episodes from his upbringing.  He reminded the audience that Artemis is an accountant by training, and also an activist, raconteur, family historian, puzzle fanatic, baseball fan and a skillful knitter “who has provided baby blankets for all of the diaspora.”

Dr. Nazarian also portrayed his mother as “kind, trusting, and generous; a philanthropist, patron of the arts, caring wife, mother and grandmother.”

In a tender recollection of his father, Dr. Nazarian told of the trip they both made to Armenia, during which he felt he discovered his father anew, as he witnessed his father’s desire to talk with everyone they met, and to help the great enterprise of building a free and decent Armenian Republic.

AGBU President Berge Setrakian, who has served on the AGBU Central Board of Directors with Nazar Nazarian for 35 years, paid a warm tribute to the couple (his wife Vera is a niece of Nazar), speaking of the close family spirit, the sense of celebration, and protection in the family.  “They give with humility and dignity,” said Setrakian in his tribute to the honorees. “They are heroes and role models, who symbolize the best traits of the AGBU founders… I have seen very few individuals who care as much about the AGBU, the Armenian Church and the Armenian nation as Nazar.  He follows all of our projects and initiatives closely, ensuring their continuity and success.”

Armenia’s Vice Prime Minister Armen Gevorgyan read a message of appreciation to the honorees from Armenia’s President Serge Sargisian, thanking them “for all your service and contributions to Armenia and Artsakh.”

At intervals throughout the evening, a string quartet played Komitas pieces as arranged by Aslamazian.  Among the musicians was Tatevik Ayazyan, a beneficiary of the Nazarians’ generosity, who thanked them in the video presentation.  The other players were Cecee Pantikian, Anoush Simonian and Ani Kalayjian.


Family, Nation and Church

Catholicos Karekin II was introduced by Barsamian, and expressed his pleasure at being present for this occasion.

“The Nazarians exemplify the Armenian treasures of family, nation and church. Artemis was a catalyst for Nazar’s great donations and contributions, and was responsible for bringing up her family.  We know their children will continue their great contributions.  The words of Nazar are embedded in my soul, that he will continue his help to Armenia in every way.”

The Nazarians “were able to see their dream of a free and independent Armenia come true,” the Catholicos continued, speaking throughout in Armenian. “Armenia progresses through the kind work of our people.  Let God’s blessings always be on us and on the Nazarians, and may they continue their kind service to Armenia.”

With Artemis and Nazar Nazarian standing on either side of him, the catholicos decorated the honorees with the “Knight of Holy Echmiadzin” Pontifical Medal-to a standing ovation from the enthusiastic crowd.

As the audience quieted down, Artemis Nazarian spoke for her husband and family, expressing deep appreciation to the Catholicos and all the organizers and guests.

“Tonight is one of the most memorable events of our lifetime,” she said.  ”It has been an honor to have you, our friends and relatives, here for this unforgettable occasion,” she said with emotion, bringing on another thunderous ovation.

The memorable evening concluded with a benediction from the Catholicos Karekin II and Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, as the large crowd pressed forward to congratulate Nazar and Artemis Nazarian.

The tribute banquet committee was led by Nila Festekjian, and included Seta Nazarian Albrecht, Anita Anserian, Sandra Balouzian, Lynn Beylerian, Kristine Casali, Betty Cherkezian, Ruby Gulian, Maral Hajjar, Arda Haratunian, Hilda Hartounian, Lynn Jamie, Maral Jebejian, Ani Kasparian, Ani Manoukian, Vesna Markarian, Claudia Nazarian, Sossy Setrakian and Alice Yigitkurt.

Visit to view a video of the tribute evening.


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